Well, it’s officially a trend: Employers are increasingly using personality tests for hiring decisions.
At least according to a recent The New York Times article which describes this as a burgeoning $2 billion industry.
While not new, personality tests are finding new traction as employers hire for remote work positions that have a different skill set than in-the-office positions:
Some managers find them particularly useful for remote teams, because personality tests can prompt much-needed conversations about who workers are as humans, and how they like to interact.
It’s an issue near and dear to my heart because personality tests were the subject of my first substantive blog post way back in September 2007 (!). Back then, I noted that the EEOC had significant concerns about using them.
The NYT article briefly touches on the subject, referring readers to a 2018 settlement with Best Buy that challenged the company’s use of personality tests/assessments during the application process, which allegedly adversely impacted applicants based on race and national origin.
In doing so, the article suggests that the EEOC was mainly concerned with tests that did not have “scholarly psychological backing” and suggests that new tests have gotten more rigorous over the last few years.
But the one thing employers should know after reading that article is that the EEOC’s position is more nuanced and complex than that. I discussed this back in a separate 2007 post when the EEOC released a fact sheet on the use of such tests.
Employers should ensure that employment tests and other selection procedures are properly validated for the positions and purposes for which they are used. The test or selection procedure must be job-related and its results appropriate for the employer’s purpose. While a test vendor’s documentation supporting the validity of a test may be helpful, the employer is still responsible for ensuring that its tests are valid under [applicable procedures].
The EEOC’s fact sheet can still be accessed here.
Personality tests (and, the use of artificial intelligence in hiring decisions) seem neutral on their face. This is particularly true in how some of the firms making such tests market them.
But employers need to beware. Not all tests are created equal and relying on such tests for hiring decisions opens the employer up to criticism (and even liability) if not done properly. Do your research and ask questions to ensure that the test can withstand scrutiny.
Employers that fail to do their research will be the ones facing liability, and likely not the testmakers.